Note: this independently contributed article has not yet been reviewed for accuracy by Karma-Lab.
When musicians think of what they're playing, they use very simple terms like "I'm playing a riff in a certain key with a certain rhythm". Keyboard musicians might also add "…and I'm also using various MIDI controllers or other real-time features of my tone generator to add some interesting effects to what I'm playing".
In plain English, this all boils down to three major components:
- Note Choice: Your choice of what notes to play, which is usually influenced by staying within a certain key and mode, often centering around chord tones. You make decisions about when to play single notes and when to play clusters of notes (intervals or chords), when to play open or closed voicings, when to perform somewhat random octave jumps or harmonic substitutions to keep things interesting, etc.
- Timing: The timing with which you play your choice of notes, which essentially comprises the rhythm you're playing, the duration of the notes within the rhythm, the velocity with which you attack the notes, etc.
- Effects: Things you do with MIDI controllers to add interesting effects such as pitch bend and modulation wheels/joysticks, sustain and damper pedals, tweaking control surface sliders hooked up to pan or volume etc.
KARMA GEs are designed in a way that takes all these major "plain English" components of creating music and further breaks down each component into discrete GE parameter groups that can be flexibly mixed and matched to provide an incredible array of algorithmically-driven patterns. The GE parameter groups roughly fall into these "plain English" components as follows:
- "Note Choice" generally comprises the Note Series, Phase, Index, Cluster, and Repeat groups. For some GE types, the Note Series is ignored and the Drum group is used instead. For some other GE types, the CC group can produce pitch offsets as well.
- "Timing" generally comprises the Phase, Rhythm, Duration, and Velocity groups.
- "Effects" generally comprises the CCs, WaveSeq, Envelopes, Bend, and Direct Idx groups. You can also consider the Repeat group to be a type of "Effect", because it essentially creates a MIDI Delay effect as well as having the ability to change the pitch of the repeated notes (which is why you can also consider the Repeat group as being part of the "Note Choice" component of a GE).
The "Timing" and "Effects" components of a GE are fairly straightforward and easy to grasp. The "Note Choice" component is a different story. It is definitely the hardest thing to wrap your brain around, because there are five different GE groups all interacting with each other to choose the actual note pitches that you hear. To help you through the learning curve about how GE "Note Choice" works, this section on the important basics is going to focus primarily on an introductory explanation of how GEs make their "Note Choice".